Delhi, often dubbed as a city of exceptional contradictions, has always stood at the center of India’s journey through the Mughal Raj, British Rule, and the years post-democracy.
That’s why, simply including the Red Fort, Qutab Minar, India Gate, and the colonnades of Connaught Place in an Old Delhi trip itinerary is not enough.
The remarkable journey of this city through time can be witnessed in the once-stately careworn structures of Old Delhi, the ancient charm of its most famous monuments, the bustling streets, the colonial allure of government buildings, the rich culture, the people, the trees, the scattered residences.
But, it’s the unintentionally forgotten and inadvertently ignored monuments of the Capital that more than merit being explored on an Old Delhi tour.
Revel in the Golden Heritage of Delhi with Vue India Tours
The Glorious & Grand, Lesser Known Monuments of Old Delhi
Tour the country; you’ll discover no other city that has been powerful for as long, that has seen as many empires rise and fall, that has inherited as incredible a wealth of history, like Delhi.
Tour Old Delhi; you’ll discover that the city has countless stories to tell if you’d only listen.
1. Khooni Darwaza (the Bloody Gates), Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg
The first mention of this Bloody Gate in literature pertains to the merciless slaughtering of three Mughal princes, the sons and grandson of Bahadur Shah Zafar, by Major William Hodson during the mutiny of 1857.
Initially built as an archway, the Khooni Darwaza is around 51 feet high. The gate has different levels accessible by three staircases. It’s made with Delhi Quartzite stone and has the status of a protected monument now.
During the Mughal era, this monument was notoriously used by the emperor to exhibit decapacitated heads of criminals. Aurangzeb, after defeating his brother and the rightful heir of the Mughal Empire after Shah Jahan, hung his head on the Khooni Darwaza as well.
Why Visit: Khooni Darwaza adds a flavor of grief-studded mystery to your Old Delhi Trip. It is an example of Sur Empire architecture and tells the tale of a cursed monument shrouded in enigma.
2. Quli Khan’s Tomb, Mehrauli
This monument is the supposed grave of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s foster-brother Quli Khan.
But, what makes this stunningly secluded mausoleum a must-visit item on your Old Delhi tour list is its historical significance, which, as a matter of fact, is completely removed from Quli Khan’s existence.
Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalf, a Governer-General of India during the 1830s, renovated the tomb and used it as a retreat for honeymooning couples. Even today, after its restoration, you can witness the breathtaking floral patterns and Mughal calligraphy on the stucco plaster of the tomb’s exterior walls. The structure is surrounded by chattris, stables, ziggurats, and an irregular gateway, all of which were added to the original tomb by Metcalf.
Why Visit: To answer in the words of Sir Metcalf, “the ruins of grandeur that stretch for miles on every front fill it with serious consideration”.
15 minutes away from Qutab Minar via the Mehrauli Archeological Park Trail, Quli’s Tomb should be remembered as a remarkable building that people can fall in love with, regardless of its age.
3. Khirki Masjid, (the Mosque of Windows), South Delhi
This offbeat Mosque is one of the four mosques built by the Wazir of Feroze Tughlaq during the 13th century that survived the wreckage of time.
Among all its counterparts, the Khirki Mosque stands apart as a magnificent structure that bears the intricate fineness of Islamic calligraphy blended with the signature Hindu architecture. The quadrangular fort is said to be the only one in North India that’s built in a monument style.
This melange of latticed arched windows, circular turrets on the northern and southern gates, trabeated and rubber masonry construction make it the finest architectural conception of the Sultanate era.
Why Visit: The architectural elegance of the Khirki fort was one of the first indicators of the glorious Mughal metaphorical architecture that is a now a part of the Indian heritage.
As a part of any Old Delhi package, this monument will help you relate to the vividness of Indian architecture. An additional mini-adventure lies in exploring the narrow lanes of Khirki village which is the only way to get to this mosque.
4. Adham Khan’s Tomb or Bul-Bulaiyan (a Labyrinth), Mehrauli
Adham Khan was Mughal Emperor Akbar’s foster brother. A notorious power-abusing army general in Akbar’s army, Adham Khan was ordered to death as punishment for murdering Akbar’s favorite army general and close ally.
His tomb lies right behind Delhi’s Qutab Minar. It’s made of striking octagonal designs, with an octagonal chamber dome and low pillars.
What’s fascinating about Adham Khan’s tomb is that you won’t find a similar architecture in any Mughal building of his era but will notice similarities that the architecture shares with the Sur and Lodhi dynasties. A possible reason, many believe, is to depict that Adham Khan was a traitor and hence was buried like one.
Another equally beguiling aspect of Adham Khan’s tomb is the labyrinthine placement of chambers and passages.
Why Visit: Include Adham Khan’s Tomb in your Old Delhi package itinerary for the intricate passageway, a maze, by all means, placed up a flight of stairs inside the tomb, if not for the wretched character and unfortunate story of a Mughal Emperor’s unruly half-brother.
5. The Mini Qutab Minar of Hastsal, Nangloi Jat
This three storeys tall minaret stands at around 17 meters. It was built using Lakhori bricks, stands upright on a platform, and closely resembles the architecture on the Qutab Minar.
Legend has it that the land where Hastsal village now stands was once submerged in water and a resting spot of elephants, hence the name Haststal (the place of Elephants, in Hindi.) The Mughal Emperor Shahjahan built this tomb near his hunting lodge in this area.
Locals also believe that a tunnel runs from this mini Qutab Minar to the Haveli Bara Dari that’s located a few houses away.
Why Visit: It’s an enigmatic experience when you witness one of Delhi’s old monuments, one of a rather significant nature yet one that’s probably the most in dilapidation, by straying from the usual Old Delhi trip route.
But, if you have embarked on an Old Delhi Tour, go to Hastsal nonetheless, for, in this forgotten gem of a minaret, you’ll find yourself looking at a close reflection of the globally popular monument Qutab Minar.
The Wonders of the Indian Capital- You Must Attend an Old Delhi Trip to Discover It All
The Indian heritage is worth exploring, be it in the North, South, East, or West. But, in Old Delhi, it isn’t merely the past that unfurls in front of your eyes; it is a moment in time that unfreezes to let you in on the secrets of varying structures of the power and mindsets of the past.